Real estate

My First Home

Noisy neighbors? You’re on your own.

Andrea Mongia for the boston globe

First came the young couple who liked to hop on their exercise equipment after midnight.

Stationary bikes on hardwood floors.

They were followed by the family with toddlers who did endless laps, also on hardwood.


Next up was the Goth hipster who plugged in her amplifier and cranked up her guitar in the wee hours.

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Such was life in my first condo.

In each case, I appealed to my upstairs neighbors’ better angels, with decidedly mixed results.

The late night exercisers would slack off for a while, only to return to their persistent pedaling.

The mother of the energetic runners, whose new home had no outdoor play space, would simply shrug her shoulders and say she couldn’t do anything about it; they were just being kids. I reluctantly had to agree.


The young rocker was the most responsive, immediately ceasing her jam sessions and taping a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card to my door — a caffeinated apology for disrupting my sleep.

I quickly learned that life in a condo means you’re on your own when it comes to troublesome neighbors.

I had assumed that the condo board, which I would later serve on for the better part of a decade, would help.

I was wrong.

Just as feuding neighbors in a cul-de-sac have to fight their own battles over loud parties, barking dogs, and strewn trash — unless it reaches the point where the police or the health department can be called in — condo dwellers must do the same. And, as with annoying neighbors in a subdivision, peace depends largely on the willingness of the offending party to cooperate.


Sometimes that happens.

If a condo is being rented, you may have leverage with the owner of the unit. I found that to be the case in the one truly frightening experience I had in my first condo.

My next door neighbor was clearly mentally ill, probably a paranoid schizophrenic. She lived alone, an educated woman, who, when lucid, would speak of literature and her past life as the wife of a doctor, mother to a daughter.

More often, I would hear her shouting next door, angrily engaging the voices in her head. While unnerving, I understood that she was wrangling with her own demons and posed no threat to me.

That was until she posted a handwritten manifesto on my door, a rambling screed about abortion and other issues. I was so rattled that I reached out to the owner of her unit.

He lived in a tony town to the south, but was far from a detached, absentee landlord. He was well aware of her psychiatric problems, and equally aware that if he evicted her, she would end up back at the shelter that was her last home — or on the streets.

I didn’t want that either. He asked for my understanding and promised to intervene, which he did.

I moved to my current place a short time later and hoped that her new neighbors would be as patient and kind as her landlord.

When I was shopping for my second condo, at the top of my wish list — not surprisingly — was no upstairs neighbors. Yet, after looking for more than a year and seeing lots of lousy options in my price range, I finally found the perfect place, which had, you guessed it, upstairs neighbors.

They were a young couple who had emigrated from India. They soon had a baby and moved back home, to be replaced by a divorced dad whose kids visited on weekends — and liked to bounce balls indoors.

The more things change . . .

Patricia Nealon is an editor on the Globe’s national/foreign desk. Send your comments to E-mail your 600-word essay on your first home to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we will not pursue.